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Lowell official calls for School Committee member’s ouster after anti-Semitic slur on live TV

A top Lowell official is calling for the immediate resignation of a School Committee member who used an anti-Semitic slur Wednesday morning on a live public access television program, officials said.

Mayor John J. Leahy, who also chairs the City Council and School Committee, said in a statement Wednesday night that he would call a special joint meeting of both panels to present a motion to demand that Robert Hoey Jr. resign “for offensive conduct that shocks the conscience.”

He did not give a date for the joint meeting.

During a live episode of “City Life,” which is broadcast by the Lowell TeleMedia Center, Hoey used the offensive term and then appeared to quickly try to rephrase his statement. A video clip of the statement was posted online Wednesday accompanying a report by The Jewish Journal.


“We lost the k—, oh, I mean the Jewish guy,” Hoey said. “I hate to say it, but that’s what people used to say behind his back. ... He was the guy in charge of our budget.”

About eight minutes later, Hoey attempted to offer an explanation, saying, “I said a bad name,” and “I shouldn’t say those nasty names about people.”

“I’m an Archie Bunker, OK?” Hoey said, referencing the conservative, working-class character in the 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” who was driven to distraction by the anti-war youth culture of the time.

“So, I do say some crazy stuff,” he said later. “I love when they say, “Black lives matter.’ I like to say, ‘How about Puerto Ricans? How about white guys? Do we matter?’”

Hoey did not immediately respond to voicemail and e-mail messages from the Globe on Wednesday night.

Leahy called the word Hoey used “an offensive and repulsive racial slur,” and said it doesn’t reflect the values of the Lowell school district.


“Throughout this academic year, this school committee has focused on issues of equity and racial equality in our schools and in our community,” Leahy said in the statement. “To fully represent the interest and diversity of our students and our community, we must not only join together in rejecting this language, but continue working towards that more perfect Union.”

Bora Chiemruom, the executive director of the Lowell TeleMedia Center, and the producers of “City Life” did not immediately respond to e-mail messages seeking comment.

Robert Trestan, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization was calling for Hoey’s resignation before Leahy’s announcement, and the push to remove him is well justified.

“It’s just unbelievable that he refers to this guy using a slur,” Trestan said, pointing out that Hoey used the word while discussing money management, “So he’s connecting this Jewish slur also to anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. It’s just shocking for someone who has responsibility for educating thousands of students to be speaking this way.”

A pinned post from 2019 on a Facebook page for “City Life” cautions, “We do the show live, once something is said we can’t get it back, [the] audience hears and sees everything as we create the program, everyone needs to understand we are polite and use the Queen’s English, we have a family audience. Should you make a mistake we CANNOT change it, and you will be asked to leave.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.